Karnataka: Plastic Banned At All Govt Events After Govt Passes Order
The Kumaraswamy Government in Karnataka passed an order on Thursday, August 30, stating that all state government departments, state-run boards, companies, and educational institutes are not allowed to use plastic in any form during any function, seminar or meeting, reported the News Minute.
The order has been welcomed by various environmentalists in the state, however on Friday, August 31, more than 500 workers and owners of plastic units protested against the ban, claiming the order had led to a direct loss of one lakh jobs and an annual loss of Rs 20,000 crore, along with GST loss of Rs 500 crore.
March 2016 saw the state government imposing an outright ban on plastics in the state; however lax enforcement of the order allowed many people to disregard the ban, especially in case of many politicians who had continued to put up illegal flex banners until the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) crackdown in July 2018, as reported by News Minute
The Plastic Ban in Karnataka
Except for the plastic used in 20-litre water cans, no other use of plastic is allowed in the state, including water bottles. The order has directed all organizations and departments to install RO water purifier systems in their offices to reduce dependency on plastic water bottles. Moreover, all plastic cups are to be replaced with glass or metal ones in these offices.
According to the Deccan Herald, the state government had announced a ban on all plastic and thermocol products including cutlery, flex banners and carry bags on March 11. By April, the ban was amended to include the plastic used for packaging and transportation of goods, without consulting stakeholders, traders and hotel industries that heavily rely on plastic items.
Since 2016, the ban has led to a closure of over 1,000 units across the state and a loss of over Rs 350 crore, according to Karnataka State Plastic Association (KSPA) president Vijaykumar.
Vijaykumar told New Indian Express that the ban is unscientific and was made on a completely unjustified basis. The KSPA held a protest against the ban on August 31 at Freedom Park, with support from All India Plastic Association, Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce (FKCCI) and the Karnataka Small Scale Industries Association.
According to CR Janardhan, senior VP of FKCCI, Karnataka produces Rs 50,000 worth of plastics, of which 60% is recyclable. Since plastic for packaging is no longer allowed in the state, exports have started to suffer. The protestors have demanded that the ban must be immediately withdrawn, or at least allow a relaxation to use plastic bags over 50 microns, plastic covers for packaging and plastic cutlery for the hotel industry.
FKCCI President Sudhakar Shetty claimed that the real issue is about handling the plastic waste, urging the authorities to find better solutions than implementing a ban. PH Raj Purohit, past president of Karnataka Hosiery and Garment Association reportedly said, “97% of plastic can be processed, remaining 3% can be used for asphalting and concrete brick making. BBMP must think of either an alternative to plastic or process the plastic waste in an eco-friendly manner.”
Is the Ban Favouring MNCs?
According to the Hindu, the order does not include those sectors that procure the plastic packaging from the manufacturers, like chips packets, shampoo sachets, biscuit packets, and PET bottles, which reportedly contributed to 90% of the plastic waste generated.
In contrast, industries like bakeries that have no alternative to keep their products fresh unless they’re packed in plastics have faced a daily loss of Rs 4000-5000, with the total monthly loss by each bakery reaching almost Rs 1 lakh. Alternatives like paper or cloth packaging are costly, and the customers are not ready to bear the burden as they find them unhygienic.
The retail industry has suffered heavily, with many shops being shut since August 20, affecting lakhs of workers. The garment industry is the second largest employer for women in the country. The industry, especially ones dealing with silk clothes, needs plastic packaging to allow safe export and transport of its goods.
Moreover, materials like copper and brass must be wrapped in plastic to prevent them from coming in contact with air, getting oxidized and losing their shine. The BBMP has been conducting surprise raids on bakeries these past few weeks, however, the officials themselves are not clear on what type of plastic is banned, fining shops found with biodegradable plastic as well.
Akhil Karnataka Bakery Owners’ Association members have highlighted how the ban favours multinational corporations, allowing them to use plastics to pack and sell products while fining the shops that are actually following the environment ministry guidelines.
The Effects of the Ban on the Environment
Waste management in the state has already started reporting positive results due to the implementation of the ban. Nalini Shekar from Hasiru Dala, a waste-pickers’ non-profit organisation told the Hindu, “We used to get between 1.5 tonnes to 2 tonnes in our Dry Waste Collection Centres. Now, we get less than 100 kg.”
The MNCs that use integrated packaging for their products have Extended Producer Responsibility which means that the MNCs have to pay for the recycling. The enforcement, however, is extremely lax, leading to hundreds of tonnes of integrated packaging being sent to incineration centres.
Karnataka State Pollution Control Board Chairperson Lakshman told the Hindu that there was no question about rethinking the ban. However, in the case of the integrated packaging, he said, “Unlike retail plastics, it is the responsibility of the vendors of plastic packages to ensure it is recycled. This has to be complied with, and we will need time for its implementation.”
The BBMP mayor Sampath Raj addressed the problem of the overnight unemployment for the lakhs of workers affected, saying “We will take care of their livelihoods.” Additionally, Deputy CM G Parameshwara is going to conduct a meeting to discuss alternatives for plastics very soon.